Perhaps Ireland was not destined to win the World Cup this time around. But we all have the feeling that the boyz in green did deserve one more crack at the biggest prize in world soccer. Just one. A quarterfinal game to match the distance traveled in Italia ’90 and then, well, maybe just one more win, on to the semis and then, you never know . . .
The loss to Spain on Sunday was nothing short of being an utter heartbreaker. The Irish side was probably the better team on the night. The ball just didn’t fall right, go straight, bend enough. Still and all, it was a game for the ages. The Irish experience in the World Cup over the last few years has been not unlike the golfer who hits one shot in a round that makes him, or her, feel like Tiger Woods, if only for a minute or two. Sometimes it takes only one shot to bring you back for another crack at the game.
In the case of the World Cup, it is more a question of moments, not all of them goal-scoring ones. But we know that Irish fans will be back cheering on the lads in their future campaigns. The Suwon song in Korea was not the end of the tale, merely the closing of another chapter.
And we do have moments to cherish and remember, among them Robbie Keane’s last-minute goal against Germany, a gem to put up there with the penalty shootout in Italy or Ray Houghton’s stunning score against the Italians at Giants Stadium in ’94.
The final result in the game against Spain wasn’t to the liking of Irish fans, but the 2002 World Cup has also given the Irish the right kind of memories to carry into the next big game.
Apart from that, Irish fans living in America have another team to cheer: Team USA, with all its Irish-named stars. Many Irish fans have been cheering the U.S. on anyway, some of them hoping that eventually their two favorite sides might even meet in the final.
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It won’t happen now, but who’s to say that this young and spirited U.S. team can’t beat Germany and advance to the semis. They should take a leaf out of the Irish book when it comes to this quarterfinal clash. “Never say die” should be the U.S. motto on Friday.
So, happily, it’s not entirely a case of olT olT, oh no on this side of the Atlantic. It’s also one of olT olT, U-S-A.